KINGSTON, RI – June 8, 2022 – The University of Rhode Island Coastal Resource Center at the Graduate School of Oceanography and its partners have been awarded a $15 million grant to address the social and ecological drivers of illegal fishing , unreported and unregulated in the Pacific Islands region.
The five-year cooperative agreement, awarded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, will help the Coastal Resources Center and other URI researchers work with local partners in six island nations: the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The main project office will be in Fiji. Pacific island communities face critical challenges related to overfishing and climate change, and the project team will work with coastal communities to fight for sustainability.
The OurFish OurFuture program will address four strategic axes:
- Improvements in the sustainable management of coastal fisheries;
- Improved monitoring, control and surveillance of coastal fisheries;
- Partnerships with the private sector to promote sustainable supply chains;
- Resilience building and meaningful engagement of marginalized actors in coastal fisheries management.
“This grant builds on URI’s expertise in addressing the global challenges of climate change, fisheries and supply chain sustainability, and coastal resilience,” said the URI President. URI, Marc Parlange. “Through this partnership, URI can support Blue Economy activity locally and internationally by helping to foster an active and engaged community in the Pacific Islands, skilled in the management of coastal ecosystems and fisheries.”
The Principal Investigator is URI Marine Research Associate Peter Freeman and the Co-Principal Investigators are Elin Torell, Director of International Programs at the Coastal Resources Center, and Whitley Saumweber, Visiting Professor of Marine Affairs. Workshops with partners began in the fall.
“The Coastal Resources Center has had great success in creating strong local partnerships,” Torell said. “We contacted the partners to develop this project so that they can take ownership of it. The project covers a large area with hundreds of small island communities.
Key objectives include greater community, gender and youth engagement in designing, implementing, monitoring, mobilizing and improving the growth of a blue economy in the Pacific Islands region .
The additional objectives are:
- Improved enabling conditions and intertwined governance for ecosystem approaches to coastal fisheries management in Melanesia and Micronesia;
- Informed management of coastal ecosystems and reduction of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing that improves sovereignty, security and sustainability in the two sub-regions;
- Addressing shocks and stresses, and increasing the resilience of coastal ecosystems and fisheries-based livelihoods.
The OurFish Team OurFuture is a partnership between the URI Coastal Resources Center, the Locally Managed Marine Areas Network, World Wide Fund for Nature and the University of the South Pacific. The program will also work closely with the Pacific Community, other regional fisheries organizations, non-governmental and civil society organizations, and other government authorities.
The new project follows a $25 million project awarded to URI’s Coastal Resource Center by USAID in 2018 to support sustainable fisheries efforts in the Philippines, an island country of 100 million people. Called FishRight, this program is also focused on partnerships that create sustainable fisheries, protect marine ecosystems and empower coastal communities. With additional funding of $3 million, this is the largest single award in URI history.
The new $15 million OurFish OurFuture program will integrate traditional management approaches and culture, science for management, Pacific regionalism, partnerships with the private sector and appropriate technology to drive substantial change in social aspects and ecological aspects of coastal fisheries management in Micronesia and Melanesia.
Such an approach is essential to protect individual community fishers and fisheries health while collaborating with industrial fishing interests.
“Our goal is to connect regional and industry fishing interests with local communities to help develop local fisheries management,” Torell said. “It’s been a successful model in other places.
“For many in these small communities, it’s about if you’re not fishing, what are you doing in terms of food and support for your families?”
Torell said climate adaptation and even the impact of COVID-19 on the economic system and fisheries will be addressed as part of the award.
“We help people prepare for environmental shocks, but COVID-19 has also been a shock to the system,” Torell said. “When we build resilience, it can help alleviate a variety of issues.”
Before and throughout the pandemic, the Coastal Resource Center had partners in all participating countries. “It gave our local partners the opportunity to take on leadership roles,” she said.